Violence Feared At Planned Klan Demo

A New York City Police Officer stands near flowers floating in a reflecting pool during a ceremony commemorating the 911 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center site September 11, 2007 in New York City.
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Just days after a wooden cross was burned on the lawn of this town's first black mayor, Ku Klux Klansmen gathered for a rally Saturday while counter-demonstrators held a diversity festival.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol sent officers to increase security at Saturday's rally, which fell on the anniversary of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's birthday and two days before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

A line of cars headed to the Klan rally at the Cocke County Courthouse, while the counter-demonstrators gathered at the county high school.

The diversity festival crowd of about 100 rose in a standing ovation for Mayor Roland Dykes.

“Now is the time for Americans to renounce the protests of a vocal minority, which opposes our fight to preserve and promote freedom,” said Dykes.

Fifty to 200 Klansmen from a half-dozen states were expected at the rally, said Joe Roy, intelligence project director at the Klan-tracking Southern Poverty Law Center in Birmingham, Ala.

“We think they are going to unveil a new attempt to unify the Klan across the country under a coalition of states,” he said.

Officials had expressed concern about confrontations between the Klan and counter-demonstrators representing blacks, Jews and American Indians. More than a dozen police officers stood guard at the diversity festival.

“I hope we don't have any violence, but if we do we've made preparations for that,” Police Chief Clay Webb said. “We won't tolerate that in any way.”

The grand dragon of the Tennessee White Knights of Yahweh, the Morristown-based Klan group staging the rally, denounced the cross burning at Dykes' house on Wednesday and denied his group had anything to do with it. Scott Fultz said the purpose of Saturday's event was to bolster the group's cause.

“I am there for the advancement of my people,” Fultz said. “Our people are losing jobs ... they are losing jobs to illegal immigration in East Tennessee.”

Newport is a predominantly white community of 7,100 residents about 40 miles from Knoxville. Although only 2 percent of its residents are black, Dykes said Newport is a tight-knit community with little racial tension.

“We all have a relationship with each other. We are a family, so to speak,” the mayor said.

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